NTS Development Co.

Matchmaking has always been a popular spectator sport – even before it garnered high ratings on reality TV – and a major portion of the job of real estate developers is to come up with a match made in heaven. In the case of the ShelbyHurst Research and Office Park – a 200-plus-acre office campus formerly known as the Shelby Campus – the land, prestige and investment of the university combined with the investment, development and management expertise of NTS Development Co. have made a heavenly match.

The first structure in the park, 600 North Hurstbourne, will be a $20 million, four-story speculative office building located on an 8.4-acre site and the first in Louisville to aim for LEED certification. “We are bringing a new generation of office environment to the Louisville market, and we’re doing it at a price that is competitive with traditional construction,” NTS President and CEO Brian Lavin declares. 

“It’s unique to have this caliber of new speculative construction,” asserts Matt Ricketts, NTS vice president of construction and development. “There are ‘single user/contract to build’ structures going up, but for our partnership to build a leading-edge, speculative office building in this financial environment is impressive, to say the least.”

Joint Venture

Construction began in November 2010 and is scheduled for completion in January 2012. NTS is in a joint venture with the University of Louisville Development Company (ULDC). NTS hired the architect – KlingStubbins of Cambridge, Mass. – and is overseeing construction manager Messer Construction, Louisville, Ky. NTS also will serve as the leasing agent.

“I think the synergy with the university is that this project is on state-owned land, and that the university and their development company retained development rights with the state,” Ricketts explains. “The university is actually leasing the land to our joint venture to build the building. We are building in an economic cycle that we believe when the building comes online will be improving.”

The steel structure has concrete decks and a caisson foundation. The exterior is a combination of curtain wall, butt-glazed glass and energy-efficient metal panels. The new office park land previously had been utilized as athletic fields. “It was very desirable land – flat and straightforward – completely developed on all four sides,” Lavin notes. Adds Ricketts, “We had to elevate the building pad in some places 10 to 12 feet to fill in a little bit of a depression and to give the building prominence with the road grades on all four sides.”

From the perspective of the road passing by, the structure is on a slight pedestal. “The building is higher than the surrounding road in feet, not tens of feet,” Lavin says. “The idea is we wanted the building pushing up from the ground – not a situation where you’re looking down on it – you’re getting a semblance of prominence and massing.” 

Internally, the north-south orientation of the building and its many highly efficient windows and glass elements will allow for high levels of daylighting. High-performance mechanical and HVAC systems will be installed. Electric heating will be used in the oversized ductwork, so smaller, more efficient motors can move high volumes of air through the system. Indoor air will be filtered and turned over frequently for the benefit of occupants. A building automation system will control the HVAC, water heating, irrigation and the lighting, which will use occupancy sensors. The landscaping will be LEED-acceptable, and space will be designated for sorting as part of a recycling program.

Integrated Project Delivery

The university sees this project as a way to leverage its reputation to encourage economic growth. “The university is taking a leadership role in driving some of the economic development here locally,” Ricketts points out. “Their vision is that in times like these, we need to create some good news and create some economic stimulus for our community. In doing so, we’ve created this project.”

The whole process has been a learning experience. “We have been able to be intimately involved in the entire bidding process – more so than we would be in a stronger market – and we’ve been able to peel back the onion and really understand where people are making money and what’s driving their price,” Lavin notes. “We are attempting to get a cutting-edge design and a detailed building at prices that are significantly less than we could have obtained four or five years ago, and that we think are less than we will be able to attain in the next three or four years.

“Integrated project delivery is a very collaborative approach,” Ricketts points out. “It focuses on making sure everybody comes on board with the expectation that egos will have to be checked at the door. Everybody is going to work together and make good decisions on behalf of the project. We were able to assemble a team that is very open to that.”

Collaborative Approach

To date, eight major subcontractors have worked on the project. “Everybody has been brought onboard understanding the collaborative approach,” Ricketts points out. “In doing so, it has really created a bond and a feeling of shared ownership in the project. With all their decisions, they put the project first, and it allows everybody to contribute their own experience, which has been very refreshing. That aspect of it has been very pleasing, and it’s been a pleasure to work with our team.

“Messer has done a great job as construction manager to make sure that all our intentions were followed through in the construction,” he adds. “We’ve structured our agreement with Messer to encourage them to find ways to save money. We’re challenging them with that on a daily basis. So far, it’s proven to be a positive result for the project, and they’re doing a good job with it.” Other key partners for NTS include United Electric.


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